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Osteoporosis medication Boniva shown to help manage pain in bone cancer patients

2011-09-25 21:42

Late-stage drug trial results were released Sunday that indicated that Boniva, Roche’s osteoporosis medication, worked well for pain relief in patients whose prostate cancer has spread to their bones. Boniva’s generic name is ibandronate, and trial investigators said the drug works almost as well as radiotherapy and could offer another option for patients suffering from pain that comes from late-stage cancers.

Patients who have advanced cancer – most especially men with advanced prostate cancer – commonly develop bone metastases. Bone metastases are secondary tumors in the bone. Peter Hoskin, a professor clinical oncology at University College, London, presented the research Sept. 25 at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC).

"We found that using IB was as good as single dose radiotherapy in controlling pain," he said.

Boniva is most commonly known as an osteoporosis drug and is in the same class of medication as Novartis's Zometa and Merck's Fosamax. They prevent bone loss by inhibiting osteoclasts, or cells that break down bone.

For the clinical trial, 470 patients were given either an IV infusion of Boniva or one dose of radiotherapy. Just before the trial, their pain levels were documented. They then reported their pain levels at the same time intervals: four, eight, 12, 26 and 52 weeks after treatment.

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The patients’ pain levels were measured by documenting how many painkillers they needed to take and also by using two separate pain measurement methods: the WHO pain ladder and the Mercadante method.

"Although there were more patients in the IB group with worse Mercadante scores at four weeks who needed re-treatment, at six and 12 months, there was no long-term difference in pain relief between the two groups," Hoskin said

There were differences in the survival of the two groups of patients by several months, but Hoskin said it was too early to tell what the differences meant.

"We hope to analyze these survival differences further in the hope that it can give us... pointers as to how and whether we should use a combination of treatments," he said. "Currently we are unsure about the optimal timing and scheduling of treatment for these patients."

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